PLAID CYMRU have raised significant concerns for the safety and wellbeing of cancer patients in Wales following reports that screening services for possible patients have been stopped due to the pandemic.
Prior to the UK-wide Covid-19 lockdown, Welsh Government Health Minister Vaughan Gething assured patients that “treatment, including for cancer, is maintained during the pandemic”, however Cancer Research UK say screening services have been formally ‘paused’ across the UK, meaning new patients are left waiting throughout this crisis for vital early diagnosis.
Tenovus Cancer Care previously warned that “possibly several hundred cancer patients could die in Wales because of delays in treatment and screening with NHS and private care providers who are dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.”
Rob Wright is one such patient experiencing significant delays to urgent treatment.
He was diagnosed with bladder cancer in late 2019 and had one tumour removed, but it has regrown.
His doctor says surgery to remove it would usually be scheduled and completed within a fortnight, but he now faces a potential wait of five months for the life-saving treatment.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Health Rhun ap Iorwerth said that it was “deeply concerning” that cancer screenings had been paused across the UK during the current pandemic.
Mr ap Iorwerth called for the guidance that had been to Health Boards on cancer screening and treatment should be published and said everything should be done to ensure the capacity is there for patients to receive the care they deserve.
The Shadow Health Minister said that “everyone” deserved care and no one should be abandoned.
Following the death of her husband Irfon Wiliams in May 2017 Becky Williams has worked with Bowel Cancer UK and said she was very concerned to hear patients were not being seen.
Ms Williams stressed the importance of anyone experiencing symptoms of cancer that they visit their doctor.
Cancer patient Rob Wright from Gwynedd said,
“I was diagnosed with bladder cancer in October last year. Leading doctors have said they expect possibly 60,000 deaths from cancer not being treated due to Covid-19. Mine is a prime case. I had one tumour removed and on follow up it has regrown.
“My doctor said he would normally do the procedure within two weeks, that it would only take ten minutes and it could be done as a day patient. However, due to preparations for Covid-19, my procedure could not be completed until mid-August and if he gave me an earlier date it would be pushed back.
“This leaves me waiting five months for a procedure that could save my life. Speed is essential in dealing with cancer. The pressure on my wife and myself is indescribable. Am I to be allowed to die?
“There are currently empty field hospitals – I don’t understand why can’t be used as designated cancer hubs so all testing and treatments can continue safely away from Covid-19 wards?
Rhun ap Iorwerth added,
“It is deeply concerning to hear that cancer screenings have been paused across the UK during the current pandemic. Cancer Research UK statistics show that 450 patients a day die from cancer across the UK and we know that early diagnosis and urgent treatment is vital in ensuring the best chance of entering remission.
“We need to know what guidance has been given to Health Boards with regards to cancer screening and treatment, and that everything is being done to ensure the capacity is there for patients to receive the care they deserve when battling cancer and that they receive it with urgency.
“With screening being paused, we need to know how Welsh Government plans to urgently help those patients who are in real need during this pandemic. Everyone deserves care, no matter who they are and we can’t abandon anyone.”
Campaigner Becky Williams said,
“It’s vital to raise awareness of bowel cancer symptoms and dispel the myth that bowel cancer is a cancer that only affects the older population – you’re never too young for this disease.
“We know that if diagnosed at an early stage then the treatment outcomes for bowel cancer like other cancers are much improved therefore it is so important that if anyone is experiencing any of the symptoms they visit their doctor, even during the pandemic.”